Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake Review - A Bold New Direction (2024)


Adventure Time grows up with its fans in the superb Fionna and Cake.

Following Adventure Time‘s conclusion in 2018, some storytelling doors were left wide open. One unexplored idea was the multiverse, which existed in the canon long before the modern era of TV and film had multiverse mania. In the latest AT limited series, Fionna and Cake, that long-awaited promise die-hard fans anticipated is finally fulfilled thanks to the canonical gender-swapped characters. And it all happens in a bold new dimension unlike any Adventure Time series to date.

Much of the original show’s audience was around pre-teen to teenage ages. Those fans are now in their 20s, experiencing new adult emotions like depression and dissatisfaction that didn’t spin through their minds as children. That all corresponds directly to Fionna Campbell (Madeleine Martin), a Bridget Jones-esque young woman living in a small studio apartment in a non-magical, metropolitan town where many notable Ooo residents are human like her best friends – a baker named Gary Prince (Andrew Rannels) and aimless musician Marshall Lee (Donald Glover). She’s as quintessentially relatable as every 20-something: hopping from one dead-end low-paying job to another, drinking wine on the couch with her cat Cake (Roz Ryan), perpetually late on rent, etc. But most importantly, she’s discontented with her surroundings, wishing her mundane life was more magical.

That ennui extends to a much older Simon Petrikov (Tom Kenny) – formerly known as Ice King – who, after the events of the “Obsidian” special, integrated himself into a futuristic flying city in Ooo as a 20th-century antiquarian. But he’s more revered for his traumatic Ice King past. Specifically, the Fionna and Cake book series Ice King wrote while Simon was under the crown’s curse. Petrikov is also low in spirits, deep in grief without his sweetheart, Betty (Felicia Day). He’s so detached from his Ooo reality that he uses magic again.When not even Prismo the Wishmaster (Sean Rohani, replacing Kumail Nanjiani)–who also returns as strung out as the leads– can’t help him, Simon takes matters into his own hands.

Returning to Ooo and watching most of these beloved characters right where we left them (no pun intended) within the past few years has been delightful. Distant Lands was a return to form that bore the series’ familiar tone. With Fionna and Cake’s spotlight, however, showrunner Adam Muto and his creative team recognize the franchise’s now adult fanbase as they are and cleverly reinvent the characters, new and old, recontextualizing the deep pains plagued by their past and illustrating them with profound nuance.


Upping its TV rating from TV-PG to TV-14, Fionna and Cake embraces a newfound edge that initially takes one off guard but eventually fulfills some fans’ deepest dreams they’d probably never expect to see come from this franchise. That’s not to say the updated content is its entire personality, for it still feels as Adventure Time in tone as ever before. Much like Paramount+’s iCarly revival and the final Samurai Jack season, the signature core identity and wit people have grown to love is intact and well-balanced with its updated edge. Given that most of the previous installments’ creative team worked on this, there’s a sense of warmth in how they paint Simon, Prismo, and other dimensional characters as humanly in their existential plights.

Simon, arguably the most complex person in the series, gets a close examination post-Betty, and boy, it’s the most harrowing arc the series has done to date. The man may have dotted eyes, but the storyboarders evoke harsh emotion in his posing and reactions. The new songs penned by veterans Patrick McHale and Rebecca Sugar, are at their pinnacle when aimed at the former Ice King. A specific non-diegetic number in an early Simon-centric episode roused me in chills and on the brink of tears. As Simon, Kenny delivers his most harrowing and soulful performance yet. He textures Simon’s weighted pain with a soft deadpan in his deliveries. Whether it be Simon’s rants and unenthused remarks about his surroundings, how he captures the hollowness of his emotions and his weighted pain elevates the realism in this character’s human depiction.

Although I’m gushing about Simon, Fionna and Cake are their titular show’s greatest strength. The first episode’s colorful musical opening montage with a poppy tune called “Not Myself” by Zuzu illustrates Fionna’s provincial reality and her typical young adult experiences many people behind the boards presumably had. She’s an avatar the now-adult audience can connect with in their age as we once did Finn when we were hyperactive teens. From then on, they evolve beyond their once stunt-marketed gender-flipped archetypes and grow as their own unique beings: Fionna is self-conscious in her actions and errors.

Cake is confident and optimistic towards others. Madeline Martin and Roz Ryan’s chemistry is not a step out of place in their returning roles as the titular duo. As their trek with Simon progresses, having a budding Bill and Ted meets Back to the Future type flair, each 22-minute continuous event affects their mood and lingers about. Also, the limited-series structure benefits their character-driven attitude. They’re distinctively detailed.

Fionna and Cake is far from the best entry point for newcomers. It requires one to either have a ton of prior knowledge from the mainline series obtained or do extensive homework to fully grasp the context of the universes that had a previous focus. The Farmworld universe, for example, returns and continues a canonical thread. Or a universe that remixes the events of Simon and Marcy’s relationship/the Stakes miniseries, the open lines from the mainline series get focus – and in a powerful juxtapositional story with characters from Fionna’s world. Even when it sometimes attempts to summarize previous events, the rabbit hole full of lore is so far down that one will have to jump back and forth by default. Though it isn’t kind to newcomers, it’s still entertaining for a general or mature audience.

Admittedly, the multiverse plot arrives at the least opportune time, with Spider-Verse, The Flash, and Everything Everywhere All at Once recently running rampant. Sometimes, ho-hum beats of the same ol’ wibbly wobbly timey-wimey exposition on multiverse functionality hits. Eventually, when Fionna, Cake, and Simon are thrown across the multiverse, learning bits and pieces about themselves and their characters in each jump, the nuanced writing and heartfelt storytelling burst itself as the most refined Adventure Time adventure yet.


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Cleverly using the multiverse concept as a dissection tool for its characters and under a well-tuned mature lens, Fionna and Cake boldly take the Adventure Time saga in a fresh direction. Reinventing the series for its now adult audience, the veteran writers and talented voice cast, doing some of the best work in their careers yet, all pour their souls to make this expansion tale burn ever so brightly.

The first two episodes of Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake are available to stream on Max now.


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Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake Review - A Bold New Direction (1)

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Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews,…

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